Why is giving up smoking so difficult?



IF YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION ON HOW HYPNOSIS CAN HELP YOU QUIT SMOKING EASILY AND PERMANENTLY SEND ME AN EMAIL (SEE BELOW) AND I WILL SEND YOU A FREE BOOKLET ON THE SUBJECT

The two main reasons people struggle to quit smoking are:

 

  1. They believe that it will difficult:Smoking Programme V1
  • Everyone (including TV adverts) tells you it will difficult, so it must be.
  • Your personal experience may tell you that it will be difficult.
  • We believe that we are addicted to nicotine.

 

  1. They do not have any real motivation to quit.
  • They can probably think of plenty of reasons but often they are not really important enough to motivate us to quit.
  • Sure, your health will improve, but this will take some time and you probably won’t notice it for some months.
  • You will reduce your risk of cancer or heart disease, but unless you have had a recent health scare, it is probably something that you will tell yourself can wait for another day.
  • You will have more money, but unless you are very organised the reality is that the money saved will probably disappear into the general housekeeping budget.
  • And, let’s be honest you enjoy smoking: it helps your stress levels; you like the actual act of smoking.   And what would you do with your hands and time if you didn’t smoke?

 
 

If you want to know more about the health risks of smoking, then have a look at my video containing some of the health facts about smoking:

 
Giving up smoking can be easy, as long as you really believe that you can do it and have sufficient motivation to quit,

Let, me give you an example, if I convinced you that next Saturday you would be absolutely guaranteed to win the jackpot on the National Lottery if you gave up smoking for life.  Could you do it?  Of course you could, you would be gaining a real benefit from quitting.  Could you believe that you could quit, too right you would, this would be to important to have doubts.

So let’s imagine a scenario next Friday, the day before the Lottery draw.  You are stuck in a traffic jam in your car.  Normally you would reach for a cigarette, but by doing so you are throwing away something like £4 million.  Are you going to smoke that cigarette?  Of course you’re not.

And this is where hypnotherapy can help you quit.  By exploring with you to identify the real reasons for giving up, we an use hypnosis to convince your subconscious that you are a non-smoker, making the process of quitting quick, easy and permanent.

Back to the nicotine addiction for a second.  Yes nicotine is an addictive drug, but it’s effects leave the system after about 48 hours.  And even the heaviest smoker spends more time not smoking than smoking.  Therefore smoking is more of a habit (psychological) than an addiction (physical).  Again hypnosis can help you overcome the cravings, quickly and easily, because you will have real reasons to quit,

As a last thought, several years ago research carried out by the University of Iowa, as reported in the New Scientist, made the claim that hypnotherapy was the most successful smoking cessation technique – you can see that it works, or to quote one of my clients:
 

“With your help I have finally stopped smoking after many attempts to quit. I have started running again and have also bought a new guitar with the money I have saved”.

 
So if after reading this you want to know more about how hypnosis can help you quit, send me an email to arrange an initial free consultation or to request a free copy of my “Stop Now!” booklet which goes into more detail on how hypnosis can help you quit.

There is more information on my Stop Now! Stop Smoking programme on my main Smoking Cessation webpage.

 

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Is once a week enough for you?

CD Compilation 3

Did that get your attention?

There are 168 hours in a week.  That means that if you go to the gym, have a massage or see a therapist like myself once a week, while it will do you good, there are another 167 hours for your body and mind to slouch, tighten up or slide back into bad ways.

 

So what does this mean to the people who walk through the door of my clinic seeking help?  Well it means that although I am giving them help and support during a session and the effects of that session are felt long afterwards, there is also help plenty of time for their negative thoughts, feelings and activities to come back between sessions.

 

Now for reasons such as cost and time it is not really practical for most people to have more than one session a week.  So I got to thinking what I could do to support my clients between sessions to reinforce the work that we do there?

 

As hypnosis, like most things is more effective with repetition, I decided that the answer seemed to be to reinforce the messages of the session between sessions on a daily basis and the best, practical way (cheap, not consuming a great deal of time etc.) seemed to be by using positive affirmations (mantras) and short CD or MP3 based hypnosis sessions between the face to face sessions.

 

Now, I have always provided CDs where appropriate and talked about affirmations, but I realised that I had not focussed on these as much as I ought.

 

So, I now agree a set of affirmations with each client and send them a printed up version the next day with instructions on their daily use, and if at all possible, provide a deep relaxation or autosuggestion reinforcement CD (or MP3) with instructions to use daily.

 

The CD provided is not necessarily on the same topic as the face-to-face sessions.  For example, a person struggling with giving up smoking, may be best helped using an “Anxiety Reduction” CD between sessions.

 

It is early days, but the results are encouraging, with people telling me that long standing problems are resolving rapidly because, for example, they are sleeping more and are therefore better able to cope with their issues.

 

If you want to discuss how I might be able to help or my use of intra-session reinforcement, please send me an Email.  Alternatively, you may want to listen to some samples of my reinforcement CDs which can be found on the Media page of my website.

The Examman Cometh!

Many people have problems with taking exams.  You know the feeling, you pay attention in class, you know all the answers in class, you find all the homework and assignments  really easy but as soon as the exam looms and you start revising, panic sets in and once you go into the exam rooms your mind goes a complete blank.  Sounds familiar?  Well there are several things you can do to help yourself, but first you need to understand that nothing will overcome lack of knowledge or preparation, but there are several things you can do to help yourself.  But, to do the best for yourself, you really need to take action before you start revising or worse still the exams are only 2 weeks away.  That is to say that like many things now would be a good time to start.

Have you heard of state bound learning?  It is a psychological phenomenon, where the benefits of learning and recall are measurably greater if your state of mind and/or external situation during recall (exam), are similar to those experienced during learning. So, if you revise slouched in front of the TV with music coming through your phones and caffeined up on Coca-Cola or coffee, unless that is what your exam environment will be you are likely to perform worse than if you revise in an environment similar to the one you will experience in the exam itself.  So if the exam room will be quiet, you will be sitting formally at a desk and you will only be able to drink water then that is how you should revise.

This approach while it will help, does tend to ignore the fact that we all have different learning styles which are effective for us (for example, listening to audio rather than reading) and this needs to be taken into account as part of the study environment as well as the exam environment if possible.  Therefore, if you are allowed to take your iPod into the exam room and you learn best with sound, consider playing the same music during both revision and exam.  Alternatively you may find that revising at the same time of day as the exam may be helpful.  Another thing to consider is the use of fragrances or smells.  Smells are a very strong environmental and emotional factor, so perhaps you could use a relaxing scent while revising and then put that same scent on a tissue to take into the exam room.  If you want to be really sophisticated you might use different smells for different subjects.

In addition to matching your mind and environment to the one you will experience in the exam, there are other tools you can use such as reading the questions slowly and thoroughly.    Mind mapping, if used effectively can also be a powerful way of recalling all you know about a particular question in a structured way.  It also has the effect of helping you to relax as you prepare to answer a question.

Finally hypnosis (either with the support of a therapist and through learning self hypnosis techniques), is a very powerful way of helping you prepare and overcome exam room panic.  With it you can learn to relax and get into the right frame of mind for studying or use it to learn to detach the mind from the negative emotions associated with exams by “seeing” yourself in the exam room and performing well so that when you take the exam for real you are calm, relaxed and feeling good about yourself.

Good luck and if you want to know more look at my web page on the subject or send me an email.

When I am dieting the only thing I can think of is food, why?

We have all been there, we start on a new diet and all we can think about is the food we cannot eat.  We don’t have fantasies over eating an apple or taking another helping of broccoli at dinner, its always chocolate, cakes and biscuits.  Why?  Eating like many other things in our life is based on habit.  We do it every day and it sinks into our subconscious and we do not think about it any more.  But when we first start a new diet, like anything new, it is unfamiliar and we tend think about it a lot in our conscious mind.  When you are thinking about your diet, you don’t tend to think about the food you can eat, but rather the food you cannot eat.  While you are doing this your subconscious imagination kicks in and gives you images and tastes of all the wonderful things you could be eating.

Fast Lady

Your conscious mind (willpower) tells your imagination to keep quiet because it is not allowed to have these foods.  This in turn only encourages your imagination with even more thoughts of the wonderful thing that it is not allowed and so, battle commences.  The problem is that like walking up a down escalator, the will eventually gets tired and you give up and you start eating all that wonderful food the imagination has been telling you about.

Stairs

To overcome this, we need to get our will and imagination working together, so that when your conscious mind says I cannot eat that, your imagination brings up enticing thoughts of what will happen if you don’t eat it – that is to say a new slimmer you.

To get your will and imagination working together requires a bit of planning.  First create a dream of how you will look and feel once you have lost all that weight.  Really imagine it, really think it, really feel it – imagine just how good you will feel when you have lost all that weight.  Imagine how good you will look.  Next consider the actual benefits you want to gain from the diet and write these down in 3 or 4 positive statements – I will lose 2 dress sizes by Christmas, I will feel fitter, stronger, sexier etc.  Then, work out an action plan with a few different actions for achieving your positive statements, for example your diet regime, your exercise regime.  For me personally one of my actions in the plan was keeping a food diary.  I really found that this helped.

Every morning as soon as you get up spend 5 minutes dreaming your dream.  Don’t say I do not have time – use your time in the shower, on the loo, cleaning your teeth.  Just dream your dream and imagine how good it will be once you have lost the weight.  Then 2 – 3 times throughout the day repeat your positive statements and carry out your actions to support your positive statements.  After a few days (it can take up to 28 days) this message will lodge in your imagination and after a couple of weeks when you think about bad food your imagination will deliver your dream, not visions of choccie biscuits.

What has this got to do with Hypnotherapy you ask?  Well what we are talking about here is self-hypnosis. Everyone can hypnotize themselves into changing their lives.  Some people however, need some support in getting there.  This is where the Hypnotherapist comes in.  If you need some help getting to your weight target, I can offer structured weight loss programmes and run regular group classes – give me an email or call.

I saw an interesting view on how we look at foods.  It fits into the ideas above, and may be of help to you.

There are four types of eating:

1. Fuel Eating: This is the food that we know does us good. It will be individual to us and not dictated by a particular diet. It is the food that we can easily eat to pleasant satisfaction and be able to stop. We should be eating this 80% of the time.
2. Joy Eating: This will be the food that we love but also know isn’t great for us. For me this is Pizza and Ice Cream.  You can do this about 20% of the time.
3. Fog Eating: Mindless eating where you don’t really taste it and suddenly stand up realizing you’ve eaten a 15″ pizza and a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s, (I would like to say that I have never done it).  As you can see, the danger arises when Joy tumbles into Fog.
4. Storm Eating: Angry bingeing to cover another emotion. Eating until you feel stuffed and nauseous in order not to feel something else.

The idea is to live your life in Fuel and Joy. You need to become conscious of Fog and deal with whatever lies beneath Storm eating.

I’m a chocolate addict, but it’s been three months since my last bar.

Some time ago, I was reading an article on addictions and substance abuse.  It described the cravings for the substance prior to its use and the fact that the addict often got little or no enjoyment from it.  I realised that this was how I felt about chocolate.  I often went days without it, but the desire gradually increased until I absolutely had to go over to the petrol station and buy a bar.  After this I would eat at least one bar a day for several days until I “got myself back under control”.  At the same time, I often rushed eating the bar and didn’t really get any enjoyment out of it at all.  Also, if I was feeling tired in the afternoon, I would buy a bar of chocolate to give me a quick boost of energy.  The problem was that 30 minutes later I actually felt worse as the sugar rush faded and often “needed” a second bar to keep me going.  I suddenly realised that I had all the symptoms of being a chocolate addict (or more likely the sugar in it) and decided that it was time to do something about it.

First of all, I created a self-hypnosis script which I used on myself, but then I got a bit more sophisticated and made myself a reinforcement CD to play to myself as I went to sleep.  The results, even if I say so mchocolateyself, have been amazing.  I have not eaten chocolate in any form, for three months and I have not missed it at all.  I must admit that sometimes when I am in the petrol station or supermarket I find myself reaching out for a bar, but this is more out of habit than desire.  In fact I have become a chocolatephobe and find myself checking everything sweet just to make sure it has no chocolate in it.  I still sometimes get tired patches in the afternoon, but if I do I simply grab a handful of nuts (the natural, not the roasted and salted variety) and have now got to the point where this has become the natural reaction when I need an energy boost.

Sugar is looking like it will be the west’s big killer of the 21st century.  Obesity rates and the diseases associated with it are rising rapidly, and much of this is put down to our intake of sugar through sweets and sweet (and normally caffeinated) drinks.  Neither of these substances have any real food benefits, they simply add unnecessary calories to our diet.  So, following on from my success with chocolate, I switched my attention to caffeinated drinks and using the same methods I have now been a month without them.

Now I am not suggesting that everyone should stop eating chocolate or drinking fizzy drinks, but there are some of us for which these items are a real problem.  So if you want to cut down on your chocolate or fizzy drink intake, it might be that hypnosis can help you.  I can offer various approaches to this: chocolate specific, or general weight control.  I can do this as face to face sessions at the clinic or in your home or as Skype sessions.  Or you can just use the reinforcement CD or a combination of both sessions and CD.  In addition, I run regular hypnosis for weight loss courses.

If you think hypnosis might be for you, for these and any other problems, then send me an e:mail or give me a  call and we can have a chat.  Alternatively, if you think you might be interested in the weight loss course let me know and I will tell you when the next one will be running in your area.

Can hypnosis really improve your running (or other sports performance)?

An interesting article recently published in Runner’s World magazine references some research undertaken at the University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Science looking at whether psychological interventions, such as hypnosis, can enhance performance in endurance sports.  As part of the research the University conducted a review of published articles which looked at the effect of psychological interventions on the performance of endurance athletes. After looking at the best designed studies the researchers concluded that more often than not using such techniques do actually improve performance.  Techniques that were found to be beneficial included: goal-setting, hypnosis, imagery and self-talk. At the same time the researchers found that mental fatigue or losing focus during an event or training was detrimental to performance.

The lead researcher, in an e:mail to Runner’s World, said “I think the important thing is that learning to use a psychological strategy can have a beneficial and worthwhile effect on endurance SPORTS Croppedperformance,…. If a recreational runner is interested in improving their performance, it would be worthwhile for them to look into principles of goal setting and self-talk and imagery or visualization strategies.”

It is interesting that the methods noted in the study as being beneficial are very similar to the ones I use in my sports motivation and performance enhancement hypnotherapy sessions and while this study focused on only endurance sports I believe that the techniques mentioned can be applied to any sport or even simply motivating ourselves to undertake a basic exercise regime.  Now, I am not claiming that hypnosis or hypnotherapy is a replacement for either skill or training but I firmly believe that it can really help you get the most from what you have, or support you in overcoming negative motivation.  We all know that our minds are extremely powerful and I am sure that we all have experience of it talking our performance up or down. The problem, I have found, is that most of us seem to be better at talking ourselves down rather than up and this manifests itself as:

  • Worrying about old injuries to the point that they reoccur
  • Dwelling on a poor performance to the point that it adversely affects future performance
  • Fretting so much about technique issue that we freeze during competition
  • Feeling tired and demotivated and using this as an excuse to stay in bed rather than train or go to the gym.

Now some people are brilliant at talking themselves up all the time and we call these people champions. For the rest of us we sometimes need support, a mental coach if you like, to help improve our self-image turning a “can’t do” belief into a “can do” attitude.  This is where I can help, working with you and your coach if you want, in a structured programme to improve your performance or overcome your motivational or technique issues.

Like your training, hypnosis is more effective if it occurs regularly, therefore in all my programmes I include personalised intra-session reinforcement affirmations, tailored motivation CDs or MP3s where appropriate, combined with training in self-hypnosis techniques.  If you think that you would benefit from hypnotherapy to help improve your performance or would just like some more information, then please contact me at info@richardaveryhypnotherapy.com to arrange a chat.

Finally, for those of you who want to read the whole thing full details of the Runner’s World article can be found at: http://www.runnersworld.com/sports-psychology/you-can-think-your-way-to-faster-times

What is significant about 6th May 1954?

 

On this date Roger Bannister became the first person to run a recorded mile in under four minutes breaking the previous record by two by 2 seconds. This record, held by Gunder Hagg of Sweden, had stood for nearly 10 years with many people believing a sub-four minute mile to be impossible. Yet, just over six weeks later Roger Bannister’s record had been broken and in the interim some 30 athletes had run the mile in less than four minutes.

So what had changed? Well the mile had not got shorter and people did not suddenly get more talented. It was simply that knowing the mile could be run in under four minutes athletes now believed that they could do it as well.

Roger Bannister used what I would describe as self-hypnosis to support his feat. As well as intensive training and running with other top miler’s who acted as pace makers for him, he time and time again ran that race in his mind and visualised what was necessary if he was to break the four minute barrier. In fact he hypnotised himself into believing he could do it.

Each of us self-hypnotises every day, often without realising it and many athletes consciously visualise their performance in an event or a game. However, from the runner who constantly relives an injury occurrence, to a tennis player replaying a bad point to the golfer with swing problems most of us, unfortunately, are better at visualising the negative rather than the positive outcomes. We can be so effective at this that we can convince ourselves of the negative outcome – the runner repeats the injury, the tennis player another bad shot, the golfer develops the “yips”, or as Henry Ford put it “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t – In both cases you are correct”. This is where hypnosis, particularly self-hypnosis, can help.

Hypnosis is an often misunderstood approach to overcoming problems. Some people are worried about loss of control or being forced into doing they do not want to do. None of this is true as under hypnosis you cannot be made to do anything you do not want to do and there is no loss of control over your mind. However, hypnosis can be a strong tool to help you overcome your fears or negative behaviours. It can turn your thinking from “Can’t” to “Can”.

In the fitness context this can lead to improved performance, increased motivation and speedier recovery from injury. For example, even a Sunday morning plodder with bad Achilles tendons, like myself, took nearly six minutes from their 10K personal best by self-hypnosis and visualising the positive emotions of success rather than the negative pain of the run.

While the top performers are often very good at self-hypnosis and visualising positive outcomes, many of us need help to realise the benefits, particularly when first starting, and this is where a qualified hypnotherapist can help. Whatever your issue, whether sports related or not, I can work with you to help you relax and get your mind focussed the positive outcomes to help you achieve your goals. At first I start with general hypnotic techniques to help you visualise your goals and come to believe that you can achieve them, I rapidly turn to teaching you self-hypnosis techniques that you can use on a daily basis to reinforce the sessions with me. This will allow you to enhance the benefits of the sessions with me and gradually achieve self-sufficiency.

I will leave you with one final thought – how many young athletes out there are visualising the sub-two hour marathon, and how long will it be until one of them believes it enough to achieve it?

Only one dog bit me, so why am I afraid of all dogs?

Every experience we ever have in life is stored somewhere in our memory.  Our memory forms a library of all the things that have ever happened to us.  We may think that we have forgotten something, but unless we have suffered some physical damage to an areas of our brain, the memory is lurking there somewhere.

Now here’s the thing, our memory isn’t passive.  As new experiences are added in our life our memory links them to similar experiences and for want of a better word filters them and influences them.  Have any of you been to a new town and walking down the street suddenly realize that you have been there before.  The memories start flooding bank as your mind links the new visit to the old.  But more than that, what happened to you on those previous visits will come into play.  If you enjoyed your previous visits you are more likely to enjoy this visit.  Conversely, if bad things happened to you on previous visits, then you are less likely to enjoy this one.  For example, I was robbed on my first visit to Budapest.  Since then, I must have visited the city ten times.  It is a beautiful city, but each time I go, I get worried and stressed, because my memories of Budapest will always be filtered and influenced by that first visit.

Well that’s logical you say to yourself.  But this is where logic goes out of the window.  When we recall and start linking memories of previous experiences to our new experience, the whole process is not looked over by a nice polite logical librarian, but rather by a psychotic monkey – you know the ones in the zoos that jump up and down, waving their arms around and making lots of noise.  When our psychotic monkey sees that a previous similar experience was a really bad one, all logic goes out of the door.  Our monkey sets off a fight/flight response.  Adrenalin starts coursing through our body, our body temperature rises, we start breathing heavily, we start to have cold sweats – in short we start to panic.  So the fact that this particular event has nothing to do with the previous bad one is irrelevant, our mind links them and all logic goes out of the window.

Memory1

So what has this got to do with dogs.  Well a friend was telling me that he was bitten by a dog, when he was young.  Even though he is now well into middle age, every time he sees a dog he breaks out in a sweat, gets scared and starts to panic.  The dog bit him 40 years ago and no dog has bitten him since, but no matter he panics.

We can overcome feelings like this by creating new links in our mind, by starting to link the good memories about Budapest to each other rather than to the bad memory, by starting to link the memories of all the nice dogs we have met and break the link to the one bad dog.

Hypnosis can be a good way of helping you to break those “bad” links and start to create new “good” ones, so that the next time you have a new event which is similar to an old one, your own personal psychotic monkey will look and the links and smile rather than go into a rage.

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!

A man came to see me a little while ago, he was healthy, reasonably well off, had a successful career a in commerce , but he was deeply troubled.  His problem seemed simple, he was approaching 60 and while this in itself did not cause him too many concerns, he was being pressurized by family and friends to have a party.  He explained that while has was not the world’s greatest party animal he enjoyed social gatherings unless they related to him.  He had never had a birthday party in his life, not even his 21st, – he had no desire to have a birthday party and the thought of arranging one or worse still having one arranged for him brought him out in a cold sweat.  He felt that as far as his own parties were concerned he had a party phobia.

He realized that this was not a rational reaction for a man of his age and while he did not necessarily want to be “cured” he did want to understand why he felt like this.

Under hypnosis he revealed that he had in fact once had a birthday party, when he was three years old.  However, due to an outbreak of influenza in the area no one came to the party.  He could vividly remember being curled up on his mother’s lap crying – feeling hurt and humiliated – because no one had come to his party.  He vowed at that point that he would never be made to feel like this again.  Shortly afterwards his mother was carried away by the same influenza outbreak.  While this was a much more traumatic event, for which he had sought help and had come to terms with, his mothers death had added loss to the feelings arising from the party, but had pushed the event into his sub-conscious.

Recalling the party did not give rise to any great outpouring of emotion, but it did help him understand why he felt like he did.  Afterwards he said that understanding why he felt like this did not necessarily make him want to hold a party, but he did at least have a rational explanation as to why he felt like he did and one that he could tell people if he felt the necessity to explain his position.

Often an event in our lives can give rise to a reaction – this is sometimes called an Initial Sensitizing Event (ISE).  Other events then occur which add to the reaction of the ISE and while the ISE itself is often forgotten, we are left with a long term “illogical” reaction to something – perhaps a phobia or an allergy.

In many cases the ISE and the reaction are not as closely related as was the case here and frequently the reaction may be much greater than simply not wanting to hold a birthday party but regardless hypnosis can be a powerful tool to help you understand why you feel and react like you do.

OCD or not OCD, that is the question?

Like many people I have a mild case of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). We all worry (its part of being a sentient being) and have mild fixations about things and for most of us it doesn’t really affect us. On my part – I order the books on my bookshelf by size and I check that everything is OK in the house several times before I leave home. I certainly don’t have the compulsion to tidy up other peoples bookshelves and until recently I only needed to check things were OK a couple of times before leaving the house. Until recently that is. I gradually found myself checking more things, more and more times before I left the house – the cooker, the heating, the windows, the iron (for goodness sake when have I ever done the ironing). On several occasions I found myself turning round while driving on the M25, to go back and check again.

 I can be quite light hearted about this but it was starting to affect my life, and for some people it stops their life all together – they wash till their skin bleeds, they cannot go near other people for fear of germs, they cannot leave the house for fear of leaving the front door open.

 Now people with OCD are not stupid, they know what they are doing does not make sense, but like the drug addict who knows that the next fix may kill them or the smoker that the next cigarette may cause lung cancer, they simply cannot stop their fixation. Many people try to get relief by focusing on their worry, but often this simply makes it worse. I checked everything many, many times before leaving home, but this didn’t help. I just thought of more things that I should have worried about, normally after I had left home. The more I thought about my fear, the more I found things to be frightened of.

 OCD often starts with a trigger event, with me it was obvious, a few years ago I experienced a series of burglaries that left me scared to leave home for fear of what I would find when I got back. I moved to a new and safe neighbourhood with a high security system in my home, but over time that did not help – I simply thought that the house would burn down because of the iron (I even bought one which switches itself off after 15 minutes – it didn’t help) or that I had left my nice expensive high security doors and windows open. When the obsession came, all I could do was to check the doors, the iron, and the windows one more time. It helped for a few minutes, but once I was back on the M25, I simply worried about something else.

In OCD quite often the act is ritualized, this meant that when I checked everything before leaving the house, I followed a ritual, I did not actually concentrate on what I was doing, so I really wouldn’t have known whether I had checked or not. I had simply developed a habit. Secondly I had a fear of making a mistake (in my case leaving something open or switched on). In his book “The brain that heals itself”, Norman Doidge describes how most of us get over mistakes – we realize we have made a mistake – we become anxious about it – we correct the mistake – we move on. For the obsessive compulsive that fourth event doesn’t happen, we simply start worrying all over again. When I read this I got a hallelujah moment. This did not just describe how I felt about leaving the house, it described my entire life.

So what does Norman Doidge recommend? It is very simple really – you disconnect the OCD attack from the event. When I leave the house, the panic I feel is not that I have left the iron on, it is the OCD. Thinking like this gives me distance between the panic attack and the actual event. I can tell myself that it is very unlikely the house will burn down, it is the fact that my brain is slightly mis-wired which is causing the anxiety. I then need to think about something else to take away the panic and to divert my attention – preferably something enjoyable (music, hobby, thinking about something nice). This approach goes against what most therapists do which is to immerse their patients in their fears. According to Doidge such an approach simply strengthens the connection between the OCD and the triggering event, but by separating the event from the fear, we are getting the brain to rewire itself. We can tell ourselves that it is the OCD talking, move on to something nice and the next time the panic comes, it is a little less powerful and eventually our brain automatically switches to the nice feelings as soon as the panic arrives. Once we automatically switch off the panic it is of no use to use and it gradually disappears.

So in my case, I have compiled a list of the things which I need to check before I leave the house. I check them once before I leave the house and tick them off the list – but I really do focus on them when I am doing it. Then if the panic arrives, I look at the list, reassure myself that the list is good (separating the panic from the event) and turn my mind to something nice (I personally find Mozart on the iPod works well). I know that I have a long way to go and eventually I will dispense with the list but every day it is getting a bit better and today I went for a run without checking the list or even thinking about it until I was nearly home.

So how does this relate to hypnotherapy? Well hypnotherapy is very good at allowing us to think logically about things in a relaxed way, to separate our fears from the reality and help us to visualize our new selves and how we will feel when we succeed. There are also specific techniques to help remove the fear. In that sense whether with a therapist or via self hypnosis it is a very powerful tool to help one separate the OCD from the fear. If you do not think you can overcome your OCD on your own I would be pleased to help.